The Fretless Banjo

This entry is part 32 of 34 in the series Breakdown: The Banjo Poems

It’s like walking in the dark
or chewing on a good-luck tooth:
a map doesn’t always help
& no vowel can be trusted.
Which is why the Israelites
dispensed with both. But
we have lived here in Canaan
so long, we’ve forgotten
about ties & collars
& all the other uses to which
a neck can be put. Jubilee
comes every day at noon, now,
& the Adam’s apple never falls
far before bouncing back.
Goats can get by, I swear,
on the notes no one else sings.
It’s like the glass ball
in an antique lightning rod—
its highest aspiration is
to break free. The night itself
doesn’t need more than
a few hardy katydids
to throb. Who are we
that we should fret
over bars of brass?

Series Navigation← Becoming BanjoOut of Tune →
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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

11 Comments


  1. I love these banjo poems, a subject rather off-piste for me because before you started posting them I never thought much about the instrument. You’ve opened up a whole new topic of appreciation for me Dave, though at the moment it’s entirely related to the world of banjos as created by you!

    Reply

    1. Well, that’s encouraging feedback, Clive. I’m planning to make a small book of these, and I was hoping it would be something than even people who don’t know banjo music too well might find interesting.

      Reply

        1. Oh, financing will be no problem for this one — I’ll just use a print-on-demand service, either Lulu or Createspace. That way, too, I don’t have to fulfill orders myself. (I have entered one chapbook contest and may try a couple others, mostly to support small presses with my entry fees and get copies of the winning books. But I’m rather hoping I get to do it myself, because I’m interested in trying Nic S.’s nanopress model.)

          Reply

  2. Glad to read a banjo-poem once more, this one with so many slide notes referencing back and again to itself, to us. Particular, evocative.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Deb. Silly me: I’d thought the previous banjo poem was my last!

      I’ve made a few more changes this morning—for the better, I hope.

      Reply

  3. The night itself
    doesn’t need more than
    a few hardy katydids
    to throb.

    Love that line. Anytime the word ‘throb’ can get worked into a poem I’m happy.

    Reply

    1. Cool. I was actually a little leery about using that verb again so soon after Wednesday’s essay, so I’m glad you said that.

      Reply

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